April 23, 2021

By Lora Lavigne, WRAL Durham reporter

 — For several years, residents have been pushing for affordable housing in the historical Hayti community in Durham. As of Friday, they’re one step closer.

But first, city leaders must hand over the land it owns to move forward with these efforts.

Two plots of land on Grant St. could be up for grabs. Residents said walking past the empty field is a daily reminder of how long the historically-Black Hayti community has been neglected.

“I have been living here on the street for 75 years,” Brenda Bradsher said.

All her life, she walked these streets and called it home.

“It was bustling. Full of kids, family, friends; everybody knew everybody. If you did anything wrong before you get home, your family knew about it,” Bradsher said.

She’s seen it all , but lately, she said the sight hasn’t been pretty.

“21 acres of cement slabs and over-growing trees.” she said. “They just don’t care anymore about us.”

It’s been 51 years since the city’s Urban Renewal policies that led to the construction of the Durham Freeway. Thousands of families in Hayti were displaced and businesses were pushed out.

“We were devastated. They promised to put homes back. But it never happened,” added Bradshaw.

Now, with the push from residents and Durham CAN, an affordable housing advocacy group, city council is reviewing a proposal to approve the donation of two plots of city land to create permanent, affordable housing.

“If you can look at a place like downtown Durham and invest several billion dollars into downtown Durham over the last several decades, why can’t we think about investing billions into Black Durham,” said Henry McKoy, an NCCU economist.

Dr. McKoy said it’s also an opportunity for rebirth in the once-thriving, historic district.

“And look at how do we transform place and space with ways that allows for economic development without gentrification,” he said.

“It’s long overdue,” added Bradsher. “We’re hoping it’ll be more sooner than later.”

Durham City Council will discuss the proposal at its meeting on May 3.

Watch the interview here.